Kolektywizacja rolnictwa w regionie łódzkim

TitleKolektywizacja rolnictwa w regionie łódzkim
Publication TypePublication review
AuthorsPobłocki, Kacper
Author(s) of reviewed materialPróchniak, Leszek

Title translated:
Collectivisation of agriculture in the Łódź region. Bibliography, Index. Monografie: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, t. 9.

PublisherŁódź: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej
ISSNISBN 83-89078-37-6
Review year


Full Text

Próchniak’s book is one of the monographs published by the “Institute of National Remembrance - Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation” founded in 1998 that exercises control over the Polish communist secret police archives. Based primarily, though not exclusively, on such sources, this monograph gives a clear and detailed account of how collectivization was executed in Central Poland between 1948 and 1956. The various chapters are devoted to the consecutive stages of collectivisation. Rich description and statistical data (describing where and when co-operatives were formed and/or disbanded) are provided.

Collectivisation was clearly a “hot potato” in the early days of People’s Poland. It was imposed in 1948 on the Polish communists by the Soviets, who – in the increasingly sharp Cold War confrontation – aimed to bring more discipline and uniformity to the communist bloc. The small amount of money spent on collectivisation (as compared to what was spent on industrialisation) clearly indicates that industrialisation was a much higher priority of the time. Moreover, neither the Polish party leaders, nor the peasants were especially enthusiastic about it. Próchniak shows that collectivisation was perceived by the peasants as a continuation of the wartime economic relations, as the return of the hated manor and its humiliating labour regime (the bell and piecemeal pay), and a prelude to a Soviet-type kolkhoz. Many examples of local rumours that Próchniak provides illustrate well the political atmosphere of the time. If yet another war was to break out, as many peasants believed, then individual farming would have indeed proved the best survival strategy. This was even more so as the state – trying to squeeze from the countryside as much as possible to perform crash industrialisation – also behaved as if it was preparing for war. Taking this into account, it is easier to understand why only the most impoverished peasants in the most deprived regions were eager to establish co-operatives.

If collectivisation was little desired by all sides, it is difficult to explain why much violence surrounded it. This violence is undisputable. Próchniak shows, however, that the strategies of co-optation to the co-operatives were not limited to sheer force, threat or trickery. Activist were also e.g. targeting their appeals to women, promising that co-ops will bring them relief in their work, hoping women would have the final word in the household discussion on whether to join a co-op or not. Even youth sport associations were hoped to promote a co-operative spirit, and foster a new generation unspoiled by the 'vices of individualism,' a generation that would execute a viable impact on their parents – who would join the co-op due to children’s persuasion. It is difficult to see such efforts as cynical or malintended.

Yet, there is an obvious discrepancy between Próchniak’s assumed theoretical model of forcedcollectivisation and the picture that emerges when we put together all the stories described in this meticously researched book. The distribution of power is the main problem here. It seems to be far from what the totalitarian paradigm would claim. Starting a co-operative was always – at least in theory – voluntary. Examples of forced collectivisation abound, nevertheless violence was always executed on the very local level, and always disproved by higher authorities. It was also mutual – party or security service executives were not seldom threatened or attacked. Each time the regional or central leadership was informed about ‘perversions’, as Próchniak describes, they reacted firmly against it. The only persecuted ones were the peasants who inflicted violence on state officials, in other words broke the law. Próchniak gives no evidence that top party leaders were actively encouraging the infliction of violence on peasants. The opposite was rather the case – high party authorities were trying to ‘cool down’ the atmosphere. Collectivisation was not a simple ‘top-down’ process as the totalitarian paradigm would have it. ‘Ideology’ – another buzz-word of the totalitarian paradigm – is not to blame either, as most local communist party members refused to participate in collectivisation. What were then the reasons behind the intimidation and violence? This still remains an open question.